Running is an interesting topic in the field of fitness and health.
You have those that hate running with a passion, those that love running 10 miles a day rain or shine, and everyone in between.
It gets its popularity because it is easy. Put on a pair of shoes and go run.
The ongoing joke with consistent runners is “Are you training or are you injured?”
The unfortunate thing about that statement is that it is alarmingly accurate.
It seems as though every few weeks or months another runner is put back on the shelf due to some kind of ailment.
Runners are subject to aches and pains in the foot, knee, hip, and back among other soft tissue problems in the quads, hamstrings, and calves.
I think the main problem with injuries to runners is due to the mindset.
I have noticed that most people that are committed to running look at it as if it is a means of training.
They are partially correct but I view it slightly differently.
Running is the activity/sport/event that is being trained for.
In any other sport on the planet, only training for that sport with that sport leads to injury.
Football players only have games once a week for 17 weeks. Baseball pitchers only pitch every 5 games. Hockey and basketball is not played every day either.
Even further, the off season usually consists of training things that do not include the sport.
Specific skill training for games starts back up in the preseason.
Younger athletes are the easiest way to see what damage a year round schedules does.
Now more than ever there are completely avoidable overuse injuries setting in on our athletes.
They are constantly playing their sport, without breaks or time off to train.
Running is the same way.
If you have goals that involve improving your running performance, running has become your “sport.”
Competing has nothing to do with it.
When you train for your sport with your sport, injuries happen. Luckily there is something you can do about it.
Three reasons why runners get hurt and how to alleviate it.
Lack of Preparation
Preparation in this case means a warm up, soft tissue work, and basic activation of different muscle groups.
Performing a warm up of dynamic movements will help warm the muscles up and get them ready for the activity.
The first 5 minutes of running does not really count as a warm up.
Also, using a foam roller before or after running can help with soft tissues of the body.
Rolling can reduce tension in the muscles and bring fluid to the same areas which can alleviate pain and increase performance.
Foam rollers can be bought at a sporting goods store for a ton of money or here for much less.
Training for Running
They way runners train for running is flawed.
You can only get so good at running by constantly running.
At some point there is going to be a need to train the muscle groups that are going to enhance your running performance and health.
These muscle groups are the core, hamstrings, and glutes.
Runners that can develop their core stability will perform better than someone who has a weak core.
When running an unstable core means that the torso will be bouncing side to side. This creates wasted energy and increases the risk for a low back/hip injury.
Every step you take when running involves some kind of deceleration of the entire body. The muscle responsible for deceleration of the lower body is the hamstrings.
Training for hamstring strength will make you a better runner but also avoid the risk of a hamstring injury.
Lastly, we have the glutes. The muscle I am focusing on is the glute medius, which is a hip stabilizer.
Hip stability is important for reducing back, hip, knee, and ankle injuries.
Unstable and weak hips tend to cave in towards the midline of the body. This creates a valgus position of the lower legs.
This valgus position puts a lot of stress on the knee because it is now out of alignment.
When forces are added to a misalignment of the knee, it is up to the passive structures to stabilize the joint. The ACL, MCL, PCL, and LCL are these structures.
These are not pretty injuries to return from.
Glute stability can be trained for with lunges, bridges, and other single leg work.
Running beats the crap out of the body.
Research has shown that a running step creates a stress of 7x bodyweight.
Let me also give you a scenario. Stand up and hop on one leg 750 times in a row. Repeat on the other leg.
Sounds crazy right?
That is how many foot contacts are made in 1 mile. Multiply that by however many miles you run.
That is a lot of impact on the joints.
It is insanely important to take care of your body and be conscious of how much you are running.
Plan out your distances and do not just add arbitrarily. Incorporate soft tissue work or get a massage if necessary.
Treat your runs like they are performances. Train in the gym to get better at running.
Going on a run should be like “game day.” Do a great job and then take a few days off to practice your craft.
Your practice comes in the sense of strength training because it will make you a better runner and it will help to avoid some of the overuse that running creates.
Do not stop running, by all means continue. I want to give running a new outlook.
It is an event within itself, especially if you are trying to improve on your time.
I think 5 days is adequate training week. 2-3 days of running with the other days being filled in the gym.
Working on core stability, glute stability, and hamstring strength will make you a better runner while reducing the risk for injury.